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How to change guitar strings – a guide on restringing electric and acoustic guitars

Restringing a guitar is a pretty simple task, when you know what you’re doing!

If you have never changed the strings on a guitar before, then having to do it for the first time can be quite daunting.

We’ve put this guide together to help you learn how to easily change strings on both electric and acoustic guitars. Just follow the instructions below and you’ll be an expert with guitar strings before you know it!

How to restring an electric guitar

restring electric guitar

Because electric guitars require restringing more frequently than acoustic guitars, they are designed to make the process of restringing as quick and easy as possible.

Just like the strings on acoustic guitars, electric strings have ball ends and are made of metal.  The main difference is that electric strings tend to be made from lighter-gauge wire and the third string is unwound (this is different from an acoustic guitar).

However, if you’re new to your electric guitar and need a quick reference to help you through the restringing process, read on for our basic walkthrough.

  1. Remove the Old String First

If you haven’t already, you need to remove the old string.  Simply cut the wire and unwind it from the post.  If you want to save the string, unwind the tuning mechanism until you can remove it without the need to cut.

  1. Anchor the String at the Bridge

You need to pass the string through the hole from the back or bottom of the guitar until the ball stops moving.

The ball will hold and anchor the string in place.  This part is pretty much the same for all guitars.

On some guitars, the collars anchor the strings right in to the body of the guitar with the strings passing through the back through a hole in the bridge and then out at the top.

  1. Pass the String Through the Hole in the Post

It’s important to ensure that the strings are in the correct slot at the nut.  Don’t forget to leave a little slack between the bridge pin and tuning post so that you will be able to wind the string around the post a number of times.

You may find that your guitar has tuners with slotted posts instead of a hole.  If this is the case, simply lay the string at the top of the post, make a kink in it and then wind as normal.  If your guitar is like this, you won’t need to leave any slack for winding.

  1. Kink (or crease) the metal wire towards the middle of the headstock

As you do this, make sure you leave enough slack for winding.

  1. Wind the Tuning Peg

Keep the string tight against the post with one hand and wind the tuning peg (remembering to go in a clockwise direction) with the other hand.

This can be a bit fiddly and you might want to enlist the help of a friend to begin with, just until you get the hang of it.  You must also check the post to make sure that the string winds downwards towards the headstock surface.

  1. Cut off the Excess and Tune Up the Guitar

At first, the string won’t hold the tuning for long because it’s still in the process of stretching.  After you tune each string up, gently stretch it a few times and then tune it up again.  Repeat this a few times and you’ll find your string starts to hold its tune.

How to restring an acoustic guitar

restring acoustic guitar

Unlike electric guitars, acoustic guitars have removable bridge pins, which means it can be a little trickier to make sure the strings are secure at the bridge.

It’s a little more difficult to restring an acoustic guitar than an electric one.  Read through the instructions carefully and work slowly. If you’re not sure you’ve done something right, undo your work, go back a step and start again.  Practice makes perfect!

First make sure that you’ve removed the old strings and pulled out the bridge pins. Now follow the instructions below.

  1. Drop the ball end of the new string into the bridge hole and replace the pin.
  2. Pull the new string until the ball comes up against the bottom of the bridge pin. Tug the string to make sure it’s secure but be careful not to accidently crease the string.
  3. Pass the string end through the correct tuning-post hole.
  4. Crease the string at the top of the tuning post-hold towards the inside of the guitar and away from the tuning key.

For the three lower-pitched strings, crease the string to your right (as you face the guitar) and for the higher strings, crease to the left.

  1. Turn the tuning key to wrap the string around the post. For the lower strings, rotate the posts anticlockwise. For the higher strings, rotate clockwise.
  2. As you rotate the key whilst you’re winding the string, ensure the string coils downwards on the post towards the headstock surface. You may have to use your other hand to secure the string as you turn.
  3. As you continue to turn the tuning key, the coils around the post will tighten and the slack will disappear. This begins to bring the string up to pitch. Check that the string is inside the correct nut slot before it becomes to taut to adjust.
  4. Bring the string fully up to the proper pitch by turning the key slowly.
  5. Cut away any extra string. Cut the string as close to the tuning post as you can so that the point doesn’t protrude. It is best to use wire cutters for this purpose, but if you don’t have any, you can loop the extra string up into a circle or repeatedly bend the string backwards and forwards across the crease until it snaps off.

New strings always continue to stretch for a while which causes them go flat quite soon after you’ve tuned them.  To help avoid this, pull on the string gently but firmly, bring it straight above the fingerboard and then tune up by turning the key.  The string will be under pitch after each pull so keep repeating the process until the string no longer goes flat.  You might have to keep doing this for a while, but it shouldn’t take you more than a few of minutes until the strings start to hold their tune.